About Difficulty Levels

The C4 Network uses a difficulty chart from Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir (2005, GIA):

Level NumberVocalTonal/Rhythmic
Level 1
  • Short, simple vocal lines with limited ranges
  • Conjunct vocal lines prevail
  • Comfortable vocal range
  • Manageable tessitura
  • Major or minor tonality with little or no
  • No modulation to other keys or tonalities
  • Straightforward rhythms within simple or
    compound meter
Level 2
  • Phrases of moderately challenging length
  • Slightly disjunct vocal lines
  • Brief, yet negotiable forays into extreme ranges
  • Basic dynamic range
  • Major or minor tonality with brief, obvious
  • Brief modulations are obvious and move to closely related keys
  • Modal passages
  • Dissonances are approached and resolved by step
  • Short passages of challenging rhythm within simple or compound metric structure
Level 3
  • Short passages requiring advanced vocal technique
  • Some passages of challenging tessitura
  • Long phrases requiring good breath control
  • Vocal melismas of moderate length
    requiring martellato technique
  • Wide dynamic range
  • Extended crescendos and decrescendos
  • Wide range of languages encountered
  • Major or minor tonality
  • Concrete or implied modulations to different tonalities
  • Dissonance approached by leap
  • Added note harmonies
  • Imitative and non-imitative counterpoint
  • Difficult rhythms may occur, but are usually repetitive
  • Simply constructed mixed meter
Level 4
  • Long phrases requiring excellent breath control
    Extreme Ranges
  • Vocal lines requiring subtlety of shape, dynamics, and expressivity
  • Long vocal melismas
  • Alternative vocal techniques (i.e., non-Western techniques)
  • Refined diction required as stylistic vehicle
  • Extended modal passages
  • Passages in non-diatonic harmony Frequent chromaticism
  • Challenging rhythmic passages may be extended and non-repetitive
  • Full compositions in mixed meter
Level 5
  • Vocal maturity required
  • Extreme ranges required
  • Repertoire at this level will provide numerous challenges for the experienced choral ensemble
  • Atonal passage or passages of extreme dissonance
  • Unprepared/unresolved dissonance harmonies
  • Very complex rhythmic/metric structure
  • Repertoire at this level will provide numerous challenges for the experienced ensemble